MaineShare is an organization created to support other nonprofit groups, one of a national network of organizations called ‘Community Shares’. MaineShare acts on behalf of their member organizations to raise funds for 43 local nonprofits groups who are its members.
The system works well. It also creates the need for highly accurate tracking of many different and sometimes complicated fund pools. MaineShare relies on FundRaiser for help. With the skillful use of codes and reports, MaineShare keeps their records accurate and their funding distributions to member groups on-target.
MaineShare's mission is to provide significant support to organizations doing progressive social justice and root cause work in Maine and to raise public awareness of their work.
“There is a tremendous amount of tracking in this set up,” says Sarah Fagg, Campaign Coordinator and the main user of FundRaiser at MaineShare. “It has to be accurate and we have to be able to access it easily. I love all the coding that I can do in FundRaiser. It helps a lot.”
“We raise most of our money through payroll giving. A lot of our donors give a dollar a week, adding up to $52 a year. Donors can pick and choose how they want to split that money between our member organizations. It is fun for donors to sit down and decide, ‘I’m going to give $52, but give to 40 groups,” says Sarah.
It works well for the member organizations, too. “Donors aren’t going to sit down and write a check that small to each of these groups,” says Sarah. “Many of our members are smaller grassroots organizations that would never get in front of that many donors. On top of that, the money we collect for them is all unrestricted. For some of our small groups, it’s a huge part their budget and they rely on it.
“Donors make all the decisions about where their money goes. We honor that exactly as they put it down. In FundRaiser, we are able to split up the gifts on the gift page exactly as the donor wants it designated. Then twice year we distribute the money to our member organizations. To do that, we run reports that show us how to disburse those gifts to our member groups.
“Because of how we code our records, we are able to know exactly where that money goes. We really honor exactly how the donor wants it. Being able to pull that kind of information out-- the correct allocations—is one of FundRaiser’s main jobs. The summary reports show us how to break it out for our groups”,” says Sarah.
“We have a campaign season in the fall. At that time, we go out to our workplaces and deliver pledge forms to employees. They fill them out and then I get the information. When those forms come in, I start entering in the data. I’ll start with a whole folder with lots of pledges. I enter in one workplace at a time," explains Sarah.
Details of how it works in FundRaiser
“I pretty much run everything off the gift page. There I track where the money is going and use the motivation code to track which workplace that donor works at. What is most important for us to track on funds is:
• where money goes
• which work place
I am also able to note if a donor doesn’t want to receive mailings,” says Sarah.
“The FundRaiser spare page is also important for us. I set one up for every workplace and every member group. On the workplace page, I keep the name of our campaign coordinator for that work place along with the coordinator’s phone number."
Tracking by Individual Donor
“We track individual donors. In fact most of our records are individual donors. Tracking all donors as individuals gives us the flexibility we need to keep the records on all our donors, including people
• who change their workplace
• who were never associated with a workplace
• at workplaces not offering MaineShare
• who work for themselves
“We have some very dedicated donors who are not giving through a workplace who have been giving for a long time. We track all of them the same way, and handle the gifts the same way in FundRaiser. This way, no matter what happens, I have their complete giving history in FundRaiser."
Donor reports also help see the complete giving history. “I love some of the donor reports that give the whole history of one person. When we are doing donor work, making phone calls, it really helps us to have all of the donor history on one page,” says Sarah.
Crucial role of reports
“I run all my reports off the gifts page, by campaign years. I also run a detailed summary report to check for data entry mistakes. I can quickly see how I have things coded. If the codes don’t make sense or I’ve put something in wrong, it will stick out on that report.
"After a campaign, when I’ve entered in all of the pledges, I run a deposit report. That gives me the total to see how much money came in from that workplace. It makes it easy to double check things."
Helpful features to clean up ‘dirty data’
“One of the things I really like about FundRaiser is that there are a lot of helpful ways to clean up the database and get rid of codes that aren’t useful anymore. I’ve been working to clean up inconsistencies that have accumulated over the years. Features in FundRaiser let you easily see which codes are inactive and how many records are actually using a code."
FundRaiser really helps
MaineShare heard about FundRaiser from another Community Shares group. “We are very happy with our choice. Last year, we had a solicitation call from Blackbaud, and we told them that they are very happy with FundRaiser. We recommend you,” says Hildie Lipson, Executive Director.
“We openly talk with other Community Shares groups about databases and use each others’ suggestions because we are all in it together,” says Sarah. “FundRaiser really helps.”
Most important piece of advice for people just starting out
“I’ve worked with a lot of different databases, and the most important tip I always have is that you need to think about what information you want out of a database in order to input the information correctly. What reports do you want from it? A database will only give you what you put in. So when you set up your codes, think of that. Look at the reports and see what field it can draw information from,” says Sarah. “If you know what kind of reports you want and what kind of fields it draws on, then that is going to help you know on the gift page how you want to set up your codes.”
You can also get help on this from FundRaiser Technical Support. This is one of the ways that Support can be especially helpful. “If someone asks, 'is this the best way to code something in order to give us a certain kind of data,' then we can draw from a lot of experience to make sure that is the best way to approach it. We know which report they will need to run and how to code so that the data is pulled into that report in the best possible way,” says Sherry Willis of FundRaiser Technical Support.
Importance of a happy workplace
Because MaineShare does most of its fundraising through workplace giving programs, they are acquainted with a wide variety of workplaces. Company culture is important to them. Their satisfaction with FundRaiser is based both on the software and on their experience of the company, as well.
“We love your holidays, for instance that you have the first day of spring off. We feel like you have a good workplace and we like working with other places like that. We feel your love,” says Sarah.
“There are just the two of us here in the office at MaineShare and we try to have fun at work. We have spontaneous days when it is too good to pass up going outside. Summer is in full glory here right now and the blueberries are getting ripe! I’m planning on picking a few at lunch today. Our office is located at a 250 acre arboretum and we know where all the berries are. It’s a nice place to have an office! Hiking trails right outside our door for lunchtime walks and even better in the winter we have groomed cross country ski trails that Hildie and I ski on after work.
"We both love to ice skate. There is only a very short time when you can do that here, and you don’t know when it is going to happen. You have to be prepared to drop everything and just do it. Because I live on a lake and I know when the conditions are just right, and when they are, we go skating!”
One year, just after the FundRaiser Happiness Happens holiday, Hildie Lipson, MaineShare’s Executive Director, wrote FundRaiser a note. In it, she said how reading about the FundRaiser offices’ celebration of that holiday had inspired Hildie and Sarah to celebrate their own Happiness Happens day. Hildie wrote:
It had been hot here in Maine for part of July (well, hot for us), and we don't have A/C at our office. When the weather broke and it became so beautiful--typical Vacationland weather-- upper 70's, low humidity, gardens in full bloom, ripe raspberries and blueberries, etc, we decided to declare a Happiness Day for our office. Both of us stayed at home and did the summer things that we love to do. I walked, picked both blueberries and raspberries at friend's houses, took a bike ride, made Dilly Beans from my garden, and generally enjoyed all that our home state has to offer and that attracts so many summer visitors.
The day following Happiness Day first thing in the morning I went to the doctor to get a prescription refilled. The nurse took my blood pressure. It was 98 over 66, the lowest it has ever been (and I am approaching my 50th birthday).
Coincidence? I think not. Thanks for the inspiration to do good work and enjoy life--both at the same time!
Hildie of MaineShare